- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

OPENING

• December Boys (2007) (PG-13). A British tearjerker with an Australian setting that showcases young Daniel Radcliffe in a role outside the Harry Potter series. He plays one of four teenage orphans, all born in December, who find themselves competing for a set of adoptive parents during a summer holiday.

• Dedication (2007) (R). A romantic comedy-drama that matches Billy Crudup as a misanthropic author of children’s books with Mandy Moore as a prospective new illustrator, whose outlook is decidedly different. With Tom Wilkinson, Dianne Wiest, Bob Balaban, Martin Freeman, Christine Taylor and Peter Bogdanovich.

• Fierce People (2007) (R). A topical melodrama starring Diane Lane as a single mother who becomes an assault victim soon after moving to an affluent community. With Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Perkins, Chris Evans, Kristen Steward and Anton Yelchin.

• Forever (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A documentary feature about the legendary Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, the resting place of such notables as Frederic Chopin, Marcel Proust, Georges Melies, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and Jim Morrison. Some scenes in French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Good Luck Chuck (2007) (R). A romantic farce that revolves around Dane Cook as a lovelorn dentist supposedly haunted by a peculiar curse: All his former girlfriends marry the next guy they date. According to the ground rules invented by screenwriter Josh Stolberg, this reputation makes Dr. Chuck desirable to promiscuous women but imperils all serious attachments. Then hope returns to his life: he falls for Jessica Alba as “an accident-prone penguin specialist.”

• The Hunting Party (2007) (R: Violence, adult language and sexual situations). The hunt for a Bosnian war criminal reunites a burnt-out war correspondent (Richard Gere) and his trusted cameraman (Terrence Howard). Their search to interview, and then capture, the notorious villain known as The Fox puts the pair in constant peril.

• Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) (R). Supposedly the third and final installment in a set of zombie spectacles that originated with “a wildly popular video game.” Leading lady Milla Jovovich returns with assorted sidekicks to take a last stand in Nevada against apocalyptic menace. With Mike Epps, Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Ashanti.

• Sydney White (2007) (PG-13: Adult language and sexual innuendo). Television’s Amanda Bynes (The CW’s “What I Like About You”) stars as a naive college freshman trying to live up to the memory of her late mother. When Sydney doesn’t get accepted by her mother’s sorority, she finds new friends with the university’s outcast population.

• Trade (2007) (R). A suspense melodrama about a 17-year-old boy in Mexico City who desperately attempts to rescue his 13-year-old sister, abducted by agents of an international sex slave business. The boy’s plight attracts the help of a Texas policeman played by Kevin Kline, and their search concludes in New Jersey. With Cesar Ramos and Paulina Gaitan as the siblings. The source material is a New York Times Magazine story by Peter Landesman titled “The Girls Next Door.” A first American feature from the German director Marco Kreuzpaintner.

NOW SHOWING

Across the Universe (2007) (PG-13: Some drug content, sexuality, nudity, violence and language) . Director Julie Taymor (“Frida,” Broadway’s “The Lion King”) delivers a movie musical that slips 33 beloved Beatles tunes, now reinterpreted, into an original, fictionalized ‘60s-era love story. Jude (Jim Sturgess) travels to the U.S. from Liverpool to meet his long-lost father and ends up finding enduring friendship and the love of his life in Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). As the lovers’ and their buddies’ lives play out in Greenwich Village, they find themselves sucked into the antiwar and counterculture movements, which seem to help them cope with the tumultuous times. — Jenny Mayo

• Becoming Jane (2007) (PG: Brief nudity and mild language) — ***. A fun and frothy costume drama that re-imagines Jane Austen as the heroine of a complicated love story not unlike those she wrote. Austen fans will have fun spotting the allusions to her six novels, but they might not be satisfied with the idea that the great novelist would have given up all her talent for love. Anne Hathaway puts in an accomplished performance as the author. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Brave One (2007) (R: Violence, disturbing themes, sexual situations) — ***. Jodie Foster plays a happily engaged talk show host who turns into a vigilante when her fiance is brutally murdered. Miss Foster delivers her standard, superior performance, lifting “The Brave One” above your average vigilante thriller. — Christian Toto

• Chalk (2007) (PG-13: Language). **1/2. “Chalk” has been touted as a mockumentary about teachers in the style of “The Office” and the films of Christopher Guest. In reality, “Chalk” is subtler and at times a bit slower-paced, and many of the laughs it elicits will likely be more like chuckles than guffaws. Anyone who ever has been in school can find something to relate to here, but it’s not necessarily a film for everyone. The teachers are portrayed by Troy Schremmer, Janelle Schremmer and Shannon Haragan. Directed by Mike Akel from a screenplay by himself and Chris Mass. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. — Jenny Mayo

• Deep Water (2007) (PG: Thematic elements, mild language and incidental smoking) — ***. Documentary about the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first solo non-stop round-the-world sailing competition. A largely by-the-book adventure documentary, it focuses mainly on Donald Crowhurst, a 36-year-old amateur sailor who signed up for the competition only to find himself on the open seas with a leaking boat and a fading grip on reality. Turning back would mean financial ruin, yet continuing on was a suicide mission. He chose a third option. — Jenny Mayo

• The Devil Came on Horseback (2007) (Not rated: Highly disturbing images) — ***. A documentary about the Darfur conflict takes the perspective of former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, who worked as an unarmed military observer with the African Union in Darfur. The film has a definite agenda (see SaveDarfur.org), and uses Mr. Steidle’s harrowing story and the haunting photographs he took to this end. — Jenny Mayo

Eastern Promises (2007) (R: Strong brutal and bloody violence, some graphic sexuality, language and nudity) ***1/2. Canadian auteur David Cronenberg explores the Russian mafia in London, making a gangster flick that plays with every convention of the genre. Viggo Mortensen is mesmerizing (and perfectly convincing) as Nikolai, a mysterious Russian mob driver. He makes a connection with Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife trying to trace the family of a young Russian prostitute who died after giving birth, who’s frightened of and compelled by him in equal measure. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Hairspray (2007) (PG: Some language, suggestive content and teen smoking) — ***. Director-choreographer Adam Shankman takes inspiration from the 1988 John Waters film and subsequent Broadway show. Full-figured teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) finally gets her chance to be on “The Corny Collins Show” but soon learns she’s not the only person facing discrimination in ‘60s-era Baltimore. Also starring John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and more. Not as poignant as Mr. Waters’ work, but cheekier and a whole lot more music-centric. — Jenny Mayo

• In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) (PG: Mild language, brief violent images and incidental smoking) — **** Director David Sington’s documentary is a beautiful homage to the first steps on the moon and other achievements of NASA’s Apollo Program. It includes interviews with 10 surviving crew members of various Apollo missions, including Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin, and presents remastered original footage from NASA, much of which has never been used before. Recalling a moment of great triumph for mankind amid troubled times, the film is likely to have viewers questioning whether the world will ever witness another event so beautifully unifying, so humbling and yet so majestic. — Jenny Mayo

• In the Valley of Elah (2007) (R: Violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity) — **1/2. Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”) explores the effect the Iraq war is having on the troops fighting it in this murder-mystery starring Tommy Lee Jones as a Vietnam vet searching for answers about his son’s disappearance. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A self-generated comedy vehicle for portly Jeff Garlin, Larry David’s sidekick on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Mr. Garlin also wrote and directed this portrait of a lovelorn, struggling Chicago actor who may finally have met the gal for him, Sarah Silverman. With Bonnie Hunt, Amy Sedaris and Dan Castellaneta. Not reviewed.

• The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) (PG-13: A brief sexual reference) — ***1/2. Every competitive arena should have foes as ferociously funny and compelling as Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, the two men who vie for the “Donkey Kong” arcade game world record in this nifty documentary. One is a hot-sauce mogul, the other an unemployed “Mr. Mom” type. Need we say more? — Jenny Mayo

• Live-In Maid (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). An Argentine import that showcases Norma Aleandro as an aging, helpless Buenos Aires socialite, more and more dependent on her loyal, longtime maid, Norma Argentina. The latter is hard-pressed to continue open-ended devotion. Directed by Jorge Gaggero. In Spanish with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark Bethesda Row. Not reviewed.

• Moliere (2007) (PG-13: Sexual situations) — ***. Writer-director Laurent Tirard takes a period of the French playwright’s life about which we know almost nothing and imagines it as the inspiration for the immortality that followed. Romain Duris is a sexy, brooding Moliere, whose genius is shaped by the very Moliere-like farce in which he finds himself. In French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007) (PG). The return of Rowan Atkinson’s tongue-tied, rubber-faced and supremely weird bungler, observed through a cycle of mishaps in France after he wins a vacation to the Riviera. Bean intrudes on the Cannes Film Festival and saves a pretentious actor-director, Willem Dafoe, from professional folly. Fleeting dialogue in French and Romanian with English subtitles. Not reviewed.

• Mr. Woodcock (2007) (PG-13). A domestic farce with Seann William Scott as the grown son of Susan Sarandon, a widow who announces that she is about to remarry. Her choice is Billy Bob Thornton as the title character, a high school coach unfondly recalled as a sarcastic bully. The prospect of this stepdad provokes Mr. Scott to desperate but presumably futile measures. With Amy Poehler and Ethan Suplee. Directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert. Not reviewed.

• Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) (R: Pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality and some language) — ***1/2. Quite simply the most entertaining film of the year. At once a send-up of, a love letter to, and an exciting example of the action flick, writer-director Michael Davis has, like last year’s “Casino Royale,” made a tired genre new again. Clive Owen is the very good guy and Paul Giamatti the very bad guy in this hilarious and violent film. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Simpsons Movie (2007) (PG-13: Irreverent humor throughout) — ***. Two decades after their first appearance on “The Tracy Ullman Show,” the Simpsons clan finally makes the leap to the big screen with a film that might not revive Simpsons fever to its peak levels but serves as an important reminder of why we let the clan into our homes and why they became a phenomenon. The flick is wider, longer, less about peripheral characters and has splashier animation as well as a more epic plot than its TV counterpart, but its plotline (Homer’s stupidity leads to the possible demise of his marriage and all of Springfield) feels familiar in all the right ways. — Jenny Mayo

• Superbad (2007) (R: Pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image, all involving teens) — ***. Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) returns as a producer for this dirty little comedy about two high school seniors, Seth and Evan (named after screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), trying to score booze and chicks one night before they leave for college. Funny yet filthy, “Superbad” is more “American Pie” than “Wedding Crashers.” — Jenny Mayo

• Them (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A claustrophobic thriller from Romania, with Michael Cohen and Olivia Bonamy as a couple in suburban Bucharest whose home is besieged by supernatural marauders. In Romanian with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (R: Violence, disturbing imagery) — ***1/2. The 1957 classic starring Glenn Ford as a charismatic outlaw is reborn by James Mangold (“Walk the Line”). In “Yuma,” Mr. Ford’s part is played by Russell Crowe, and Christian Bale is the rancher out to escort the outlaw to prison. The remake is grittier, more complex and better in nearly every way than the terrific original. — Christian Toto

2 Days in Paris (2007) (R: Sexual content, some nudity and language) ***. Despite making an experimental film several years back, French actress Julie Delpy considers this dialogue-heavy romantic comedy her directorial debut. In it, she stars as Marion, a French-born photographer, who takes her boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg), for a vacation in her native Paris. There, they find their relationship tested by Marion’s sexually open parents, her myriad ex-boyfriends and Jack’s increasing jealousy. Jenny Mayo

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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